Appreciating God's Grace
What has God done for you lately? If you were to ask this question of our general population today we would probably be amazed at the range of the answers that we might hear. Those who reject the Lordship of God in their lives would probably answer with a mix of statements that range from “God had done nothing for me” to “very little.” Those who are dealing with difficult circumstances may blame God for those circumstances and argue that all they receive from God is pain and suffering. Many would argue that God has no impact on their lives at all. Some may scoff at the question and reject the very existence of God. These answers convey a wholesale lack of understanding of who God is and what He provides for us during every moment of every day that we experience in this life.
One would think that those who openly and confidently testify of their belief in the Lordship of God, particularly those who are faithful in their Christian testimony would have a contrasting, and quite opposite response. When asked, “What has God done for you lately,” most will probably look back at the circumstances of recent days and proclaim a judgment upon God based upon an evaluation of those circumstances. There may be at least three ways that we might form such an evaluation.
First, if our recent experiences have been over-the-top positive, filled with overflowing blessings and a series of mountain-top spiritual experiences, our testimony might overflow with an expression of our appreciation of God’s grace and the wonderful work He does in our lives.
Second, If our recent experiences have been over-the-top negative, filled with stress and tragedy in a series of difficult and challenging experiences, our testimony might be quite different. We may, in an effort to project blame, pass judgment upon God, proclaiming our circumstances to be the work of a faulty God. We might be so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we are not giving God any consideration at all.
Most of us are probably experiencing circumstances that fall somewhere in the center of these two extremes. Most people do not interpret the circumstances of the world at one extreme or the other, but rather tend to simply take for granted the sequence of their daily circumstances of life. We give very little thought to the continual and intimate impact that God’s grace has our lives. It becomes quite easy for us to become prideful of our own successes and accomplishments and allow the importance and significance of our faith to diminish its impact on our lives.
When we become apathetic to our faith we begin to forget what God has done, and what God is doing for us on a continual basis. When this happens, we lose a sensitivity to the importance of our faith. For some, their faith may become reduced to the commitment to a boring hour on a Sunday morning when there is nothing more interesting to do. Any vibrancy or excitement about one’s faith has become replaced with complacency and self-sufficiency.
What has God done for you? Lest we forget …
1. GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR ALL OUR BASIC NEEDS.
Deuteronomy 8:7. For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
This passage of scripture comes Moses as he addressed the nation of Israel prior to their entrance to the promised land of Canaan. His words had particular importance as he would not be entering the Canaan land with them after leading the nation through the wilderness for forty years. Those who had any remembrance of the original flight of the nation from Egypt were only children or youth when the nation crossed the Red Sea. The miraculous intervention that the nation had witnessed in Egypt, including the plagues and the crossing of the sea, were only childhood memories for the older and abstract stories for the others.
One of the effects of the forty year wandering in the desert came in the form of collective amnesia concerning what God had done for them. Through Moses, God reminded them of His provision during their years in the wilderness that most had become to take for granted.
First, Moses reminds the people of who it is that has provided for them. Stated now and repeated several times in this passage, Moses refers to “the LORD thy God” as the provider. The word translated, LORD, is rendered with all capital letters in most translations because the Hebrew name for LORD was also written in capital letters: YHWH. The name of the LORD was so revered that they wrote the name without vowels so that it could not be spoken, lest His name be spoken without appropriate reverence. This is a rendering of the covenant name of God, YAHWEH, which when transliterated to an English phonetic spelling is “JEHOVAH,” which would also be rendered in all capital letters if the original form is to be maintained. The Israelite prophets understood that Jehovah and the Messiah were one and the same, as did the writers of the New Testament when they rendered LORD in all capital letters and used the name to refer to Jesus. The basic tenet of the Christian faith is that Jesus is the Messiah, and though He came as a man with all of the attributes of a man, He is also the Messiah, who is YAHWEH, Jehovah God. When Moses spoke to the LORD, it was YAHWEH to whom he spoke, the One who would come down from heaven some day and die on a cross to provide forgiveness to all who would place their faith and trust in Him. It is He who provides for all of ur needs.
A good land. The very land we stand on is a gift from God. With all of the possible places on this earth that we could have been placed, He placed us where we can thrive. When God created the heavens and the earth, He called them “good.” It is God who placed us here, and not we ourselves. We owe our very existence to Him, independent of any circumstances that we or someone else may have placed us in.
Brooks of water. All one needs to do to receive fresh, clean water from a brook or a fountain is to reach down and take it. God has taken the most important provisions of life and simply placed them at our feet. God provided all of the basic needs of our survival. Along with the provision of water, we might add the very air that we breathe.
God has given to us an abundance of land, of fresh water, and fresh air. We may become alarmed when we fear the loss of any of these. The most frequent fear may be when we experience times of drought. We know and understand the cycles of weather, and know enough to conserve during times of plenty so that there will be available resources during times of drought. Yet we often squander and abuse our resources. Cities have to pass laws to forbid the watering of lawns in the dry seasons because people refuse to conserve. This is just one more example of how we take God’s provision for granted.
Deuteronomy 8:8-9a. A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness,
When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cast out of the garden of provision and told that they would now find their provisions met only through the sweat of their own work. When God brought the nation of Israel into the Promised Land He gave them a land that was, like Eden, fruitful. The land already contained the wheat, barley, vines, trees, fruits, and honey that Moses describes, as well as all other crops that the Canaanites had sewn. Just as God provides for our needs of land and water, He provides for our need for food. God has provided an abundance of food, so much so that we tend to eat so much food that our gluttony creates health problems. The only reason that there is hunger anywhere in the world is a lack of appropriate distribution, a lack that is perpetuated by the sins of greed and prejudice.
Deuteronomy 8:9. thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
Besides providing food in abundance, God has provided an abundance of all of the natural resources that we need to sustain and improve the quality of our lives. The translation of the words rendered as “stones of iron” is considered by some to be problematic since these passages were written prior to the iron age. However, though the smelting of iron ore had not yet been developed, meteoric iron was commonly found and fabricated into iron implements. This would certainly be thought of as “stones of iron” to the ancients. Since the time of the ancients there has been continual discovery and exploitation of the natural resources that God has provided. Each day still brings with it new discoveries of natural resources that can be utilized to improve the quality of our lives.
In these few verses, Moses has given us a comprehensive list of all of the objects in creation that God has made available to us to meet our needs. When asked, “What has God done for you lately,” we may be reminded that God has sustained our lives through giving us the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all of the natural resources that we utilize to provide every other object that we use to meet every form of need that we have.
2. BLESS THE LORD FOR HIS PROVISION
Deuteronomy 8:10. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
When we really consider what God has provided for us, it is appropriate that we give thanks to God. The wording of this verse is actually an imperative, a command to the people to remember to praise and thank God for what He has done for us. The context of the passage disallows a theology that we are to bless the LORD only when we are full and satisfied. A better understanding is that, when we find our needs met, we should never forget that the true source of provision is the grace of God. It is easier, when we are full, to become satisfied and complacent, forgetting the true source of provision, and give ourselves credit for that provision. This gives us a spirit of self-satisfaction that leads us to ignore God and replace Him with the idols of our own pride and self-importance.
Deuteronomy 8:11. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
Referring again to YAHWEH, Moses tells the people to be wary and vigilant against what would become an insidious sin: apostasy. Apostasy is simply the act of forgetting God and turning our back on Him. Apostasy is the opposite of repentance, the turning away from the sins of this world and turning to God. When we look at the world today we find that it is a vast sea of apostasy where the vast majority of people have forgotten the one true God and turned to other gods or to their own selves as their god. This immense cultural bias against God can influence even those who profess faith in God and lead them to forget the LORD and turn away from seeking obedience to Him.
Moses reminds us that the maintenance of a close relationship with God necessitates action on our part. We must work to remember what God has done so that we do not forget.
Deuteronomy 8:12. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; 13And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; 14Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
When are we most likely to forget that it is God who supplies our needs? Since many think of God as one who provides in times of dire need, they often ignore him in times of plenty, taking pride in having taking care of themselves so successfully. Moses refers to these as times when their “heart be lifted up,” a clear reference to pride. There are over one hundred references in scripture that refer to God’s hatred of the sin of pride because this one sin serves to separate people from Him and from others more than any other.
We tend to forget the miraculous blessings that God has given to all people in those times when our needs are fully met. We have a way of taking credit for what God is doing in our midst.
Though we will usually turn to God only in the most difficult of times, it is possible to blame God for the tragic circumstances of our lives and fail to thank Him when we are mired in the bonds of difficulty. An illustration of this phenomena is portrayed In the great Civil War movie, Shenandoah. Jimmy Stewart plays the fictional farmer Charlie Anderson who finds himself immersed in the horrors of the war, Refusing to take sides, he finds his son taken prisoner by Union soldiers as a southern sympathizer. With his crops all but destroyed, barely able to place food on the table, he, in his grief and despair leads his dinner prayer with a refusal to thank God, stating that what they are about to eat was produced entirely by the sweat of his own work. Anderson argues in his prayer that God had done nothing to help them. It Is easy to forget that when we harvest a crop we are simply picking up what God has laid at our feet. All we did was till the soil and plant the seed. The miracle of life that is represented in the germination and growth of the plant is something that man cannot duplicate. It is God who does the work, while we simply reap the harvest.
It is also in times of plenty that we also tend to forget who brought us through those times when the circumstances of life were less sure.
Deuteronomy 8:15-16. Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
When God brought Israel out of Egypt He brought them quickly and miraculously to the promised land through a barren and dry desert. Their refusal to enter the land brought a judgment from the LORD that those who distrusted God would continue to wander in the wilderness for the rest of their lives. However, even in their rebellious state, God had mercy on them and provided needed food and water, and He did so in a quite miraculous manner.
The experience of the Israelites is not unlike that of the lost today when they experience times of drought and peril. Even though they give little or no attention to God, He still provides for their basic needs. However, by remaining in rebellion against the LORD, they go through these experiences without the hope that Christ brings, and without the assurance of God’s deliverance.
Many of us may remember days when we felt in much greater peril, days where we were not sure of how we would get through. Many have experienced those trips through the barren wilderness where it seemed like there was no relief from distress, yet when one looks back, one can always see how God sustains us and brings us through those tough experiences.
3. REMEMBER THAT IT IS GOD WHO GIVES ALL THINGS.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18. And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
God created man for one purpose: to glorify Him. Consequently, the most important purpose that all people have is to love the LORD, and such love will always inspire obedience to Him and a deep appreciation for what He has done for us. We may think that we have accomplished great things on our own, but the truth is simply that all we have gained has come from the hand of God and is to be used to bring God glory.
God provided the materials and the means to glorify Him. God provided all that exists, and as its Creator is already the LORD of all things. Anything that we have gained has come from that which is already His. All we have accomplished and accumulated is simpoy obtained in a manner like the water from the brook or the harvest in the field: we have simply accepted that which God has given us. Not only has God given us the bounty, He gave us the means to receive it. God did not give lavishly to us that we might glorify ourselves, but rather that we would glorify Him with the means that He provides to us.
4. FORGETTING GOD’S PROVISION CARRIES A GREAT COST.
Deuteronomy 8:19-20. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. 20As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
It is very easy for us to take for granted what God has done for us as we go through the experiences and circumstances of our daily lives. The nation of Israel did this very thing as they became far more interested in the carnal attractions of the secular and pagan culture in which they were immersed. Eventually the nation of Israel was absorbed into that culture, losing their identity as they lost their appreciation for what God was doing for them, and ultimately they no longer existed as a nation. The people were scattered and no longer benefited from the inheritance of the land that God had given to them when they were delivered out of Egypt.
Just as the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, God has delivered the faithful from bondage to sin. As we come to more fully appreciate what God has done for us let us never fail to recognize the miraculous gift that was given by God to mankind when the Messiah came and took upon Himself the penalty that we deserve for our sin so that those who place their faith and trust in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life, an eternity with God.
How do we glorify God with the gifts God has given us?
1. Respond to God’s offer of grace with an uncompromising faith and trust in Him.
2. Replace the love of the things of this world with a deep love for the LORD.
3. Reject the bent towards prideful expression and replace it with humility before the LORD.
4. Recognize that all things come from God and are an undeserved gift, lavishly given to us because of God’s loving grace.
5. Return thanks to God on a continual basis.
6. Serve God as stewards of our possessions not owners of it.
7. Share out of our abundance with generosity and love towards others in need.
8. Proclaim and demonstrate the love and glory of the LORD to all who will listen.
9. Develop a walk in life that continually praises God and expresses a consistent and sincere spirit of thankfulness.
 1965. Written by James Lee Barrett, Directed by Andrew B. McLaglen.